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Jewish soft power and Yom Kippur at the United Nations

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Since confessions are between Jews and the Holy One, I will instead call this a tale, an insider’s account of one of the most fascinating, yet largely forgotten diplomatic struggles of the Jewish people. It was not long ago that the United Nations, no easy place for Israel and World Jewry, adopted Yom Kippur as an official holiday.

Yes, you read correctly: Yom Kippur is a recognized UN holiday. I played a modest, behind-the-scenes role in this against-all-odds struggle.

It is a tale that brings into sharp relief two axioms of Jewish diplomacy.

First, quiet, back-channel advocacy can be incredibly potent.

After the Israeli representative, Ambassador Ron Prosor, initially floated the proposal for recognizing Yom Kippur – viewed as a moonshot if there ever was one – the idea languished for some time in bureaucratic channels.

From my perch in Foggy Bottom, I was confronted with questions. Would a US holiday need to be dropped? Would adopting Yom Kippur establish a precedent? Where would the votes come from given the world body’s reputation, at times, for unfair treatment of Israel and World Jewry? All legitimate questions.

Rather than issuing public appeals or gin up media attention, one........

© The Times of Israel (Blogs)

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